Economics Major Using Data to Combat Poverty and Suffering

Ancito Etienne ’17 is spending the summer gathering data, crunching numbers, and making the case for public investment in hunger relief and conflict resolution around the world.

He has a summer internship with Mercy Corps, an international aid organization that helps people whose lives have been impacted by global conflict. Mercy Corps’ Policy and Advocacy team will use Ancito’s research to advocate for reform in food aid and peacebuildng activities.

He said the data will help Mercy Corps “influence Congress and other actors who have the financial or legislative power to create equitable policies for allocating more funds towards humanitarian emergency response, as well as long-term development programs.”

Advocating for people in need is a longstanding goal for Ancito. By the time he started college, he had already launched an orphanage in his native Haiti and had spent months volunteering in the aftermath of a catastrophic earthquake there in 2010. As detailed in a Lynchburg News & Advance story during his freshman year, his close-up view of poverty and devastation made him change career goals. Rather than become a doctor, he wanted to make policies that would provide a more sustainable, equitable economy.

“I want to be a voice for the poor of my country,” he said. “But more importantly, I aspire to be a policy maker. No system can strictly rely on outside philanthropic resources to function. Therefore, there must be enforced policies to help build sustainable development and to respond to the grievances of the poor.”

He said several facets of his experience at LC have prepared him for the internship: his economics research classes provided practical skills, the Bonner Leader program stoked his passion for policy work, and the Westover Honors program provided challenging experiences that prepared him to work quickly with in-depth material.

Now the internship, which started June 6 and will continue until August 11, is giving him practical experience that will help him reach his goals. “It is helping to arm me with skills through the advocacy work we have carried forward,” he said. “I believe I will continue to develop my research skills and advocacy and policy knowledge throughout the summer.”

Ancito has learned a lot about how young people with business skills can leverage their talents to make a difference around the globe through microfinancing and other strategies, and he hopes his fellow LC students will look for ways to help others while building their careers. “I think it’s important that we don’t limit our education towards simply landing successful employment,” he said. “Lynchburg is one of the ‘Colleges That Change Lives,’ and I trust the meaning of ‘Lives’ goes beyond the lives of the students themselves. It includes the lives of people in our community, both domestic and international.”

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